Thursday, October 01, 2009

Libraries receive stimulus grants, key to economic recovery

Barack Obama

The October 1st deadline for the first round of reporting for stimulus grants is upon us. I remember going to numerous webinars for the American Recovery and Re-investment Act (ARRA) training for these grants. Our library was the recipient of three of these grants. I did quite a bit of research before pursuing these grants as I knew that the reporting requirements were very extreme. I particpated in many a webinar and heavy research before proceeding.

If these webinars did anything, they drilled into your head that the Federal Government was serious about the reporting. Any lack of transparency or errors in reporting can kill your project immediately, result in the return of all funds, and have the agency blackballed from any future projects.You would think that Obama himself is going to show up himself to chastize you and take your money away.  It reminded me of an Art History class I took with my wife in college. Obama as the Pantocrator, a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity.

Not enough for libraries
ALA has done a good job informing libraries about these opportunities. I wonder, however, how many libraries will receive these grants. I was very disappointed by the inability for libraries to get funding for fiber. Even though there have been various reports and studies produced to indicate the need and benefits, it hasn't been backed-up with funding. If there is one thing for sure, libraries will need increased bandwidth for future needs. Furthermore, anyone can tell that libraries are key to the economic recovery (there is an endless supply of stories), but is that backed up by stimulus grant funding? It seems to be lacking so far.

What kinds of grants
It was time to ramp up the detective-work to find those stimulus grants. I signed up for to receive alerts and began to research the process to get the grants. They were very elusive. Most of the library information about the grants was focused on fiber, most of the others focused on ways to partner with major agencies to receive funding. After attending a conference sponsored by Senator Boxer, I was able to track down several leads. What I did find was an opportunity to renovate some of our branch libraries. The reason why can provide a great explanation of the importance of libraries.

Libraries stimulate the economy
In the end we got the grants, three totalling $165,000. Altogether, we were one of three libraries in the country to receive a USDA stimulus grant and the only one in California. Knowing this about libraries, there should have been more funding to more libraries. I think I will know more about how much libraries received after the October deadline.

We received three stimulus grants from the USDA. The primary reason was that we provided the only public building in some of these areas where unemployment was 19%. In researching the grant, not only was there high rates of unemployment, but almost 80% of the population didn't attain a high school diploma. In rural areas, not only are resources scarce, they are non-existent. There are no buildings or services for the public. There is a school and after-school there is nothing without the library. It's the only public place, a safe place for someone to go where there is nowhere else to go. It's the only chance to get skills to be able to get a high school diploma, to get the skills needed for a job, to be a productive member of society. It starts with the library.

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